We waited the whole night to hear what the special conditions were for Triple H and Brock Lesnar, and we end up having a guy that quit on his own months ago get into a retirement match. Why is this supposed to be such a big deal?
Undertaker and Punk have all the makings of being a big deal, but it just feels like it’s missing something. Perhaps it’s because Punk is being kept out of the ring and the Undertaker isn’t allowed to do more than walk slowly until ‘Mania. It also seems to be getting third billing among the three main events, which is too bad because I’m pretty sure it’s the match people want to see most.
That brings us to the main main event. The Rock is actually going to be on Raw for the first time in weeks and I’m not even sure that’s a good thing. The WWE Champion seems to have nothing to offer the WWE outside of Pay Per View events, and it’s hurting his reputation in the locker room and the fans. Cena meanwhile has nothing to say regarding his opponent that hasn’t already been said.
Tonight’s show kicks off with CM Punk strolling down the ramp with Paul Heyman holding Paul Bearer’s urn. Heyman hasn’t been associated with Punk much since Lesnar came back so it’s good to see him in Punk’s corner. Of course Lesnar won’t be here tonight so it’s not like he’ll be out for two people on the same night. I’m very curious how involved he is at WrestleMania. Punk catches the urn from Heyman and talks about all the things people say about the Undertaker regarding WrestleMania and the urn. He says the perfect ending would have been for the Undertaker to retire after last year’s ‘Mania (hard to argue), but he ruined it by coming back to challenge Punk, who does no believe in all that mumbo jumbo. He says he took the urn because it means so much to the Undertaker, and says it doesn’t mean anything to him. He then throws it on the ground (ooooooooooh). Punk says that he has the psychological disadvantage because he has something the Undertaker wants. The phrase “rest in peace” means nothing to Punk, as he does not rest like the Undertaker does between WrestleMania’s (funny because he’s apparently scheduled some time off after ‘Mania) and he is never at peace. He says that he is the best in the world and that the Undertaker’s record will rest in peace. Just then the Undertaker’s music hits, the lights go out, and when they come back on ‘Taker is attacking Punk! He’s throwing punches! Punk runs out of the ring as Heyman follows with the urn. Promo was fine but it was all worth it for five seconds of actually seeing the Undertaker in action.
The first match of the night is supposed to be Fandango against somebody. After dancing around and into the ring, he says his name and Chris Jericho immediately comes down the ramp and attacks Fandango. Cole keeps saying that this is not the scheduled match and Fandango runs off. What was the scheduled match? Who got shorted? Why couldn’t they name a random guy? That should matter shouldn’t it? Anyway Jericho was supposed to face Dolph Ziggler later in the show but since Jericho was in the ring, Ziggler decided to comes out as well and they are now having their match. Who was backstage ready to come out? Does he now just go back to the locker room? Does he still get paid?
The two trade blows for a while to start, with Ziggler escaping the Walls of Jericho only to be hit with a cross body splash from the top rope for a two count. Big E pulled Jericho face first onto the apron during the break, giving Ziggler control of the match. Dolph then puts Jericho in the abdominal stretch (my favorite move of all time) until Chris escapes and goes into his series of shoulder blocks and a double axe handle from the top rope. Jericho hits Dolph with the running bulldog, then hits Big E with a springboard dropkick. Dolph hits a DDT for a two count, but Jericho escapes the sleeper and applies the Lion Tamer, winning the match via submission. Big E spoils the celebration by attacking Jericho and hitting him with the move of no name. With Jericho down, Fandango comes out and dances over Jericho before attacking him too. Fandango is now throwing punches. He then takes Fandango out with a sloppy boot to the face, getting chants of “you can’t wrestle.” After a leg drop from the top rope, Fandango said his name and left. This whole thing took forever to play out and they are definitely facing each other at WrestleMania and I haven’t seen anything out of Fandango yet to make me think it is a good idea.
Backstage Sheamus is being interviewed about the Shield when the Shield run in and attack him. Slowly, Orton and Big Show come to get his back and their stare at each other awkwardly.
Mark Henry now in the ring for a handicapped match against the Uso’s. So now Henry is being booked like Ryback used to. The Uso’s drop Henry with some kicks to the jaw but it only slows him down for a little bit. Henry head butts one of them, throws the other one out of the ring, hits a WSS and wins the match. After the match, Henry drops each Uso with another WSS. Why? Because THAT’S WHAT HE DOES!
Time for Jack Swagger to throw up in his mouth again because World Heavyweight Champion Alberto Del Rio is taking on United States Champion Antonio Cesaro. Ricardo Rodriguez comes out in crutches to announce Del Rio after having his ankle broken by Swagger last week. Del Rio starts working the arm before Antonio fights back for a bit as Zeb Colter and Jack Swagger head to the stage. Alberto then met Cesaro at the top rope to deliver a superplex. With both men down, Swagger went to attack Rodriguez again but this time Del Rio attacked Swagger, forcing him out of the arena as Cesaro celebrates the victory via count out. Del Rio then takes his frustration out on Cesaro, kicking him down and applying the cross arm breaker. Real nice Alberto. Way to be a face.
The Prime Time Players up next against Team Hell No in what should go longer than the last two matches combined. Bryan and Kane start strong with a lot of good teamwork on O’Neil before doing the same to Darren Young. Ziggler, Big E and AJ then pop up on the stage to watch as the PTP take control. Kane comes in on a hot tag and after Bryan takes out Titus with a knee off the ramp, Kane hits the chokeslam to pin Young for the win. Somehow there was no interference. I guess they were just there to remind us they had a match at WrestleMania.
After showing a full recap of last week’s snoozer of a contract signing, Triple H came to the ring to address the crowd. He says going against Brock Lesnar you have to think your career has a chance of ending anyway and that he always fights like his career depends on it. So basically the stipulation doesn’t matter. He finishes by saying he’s going to kick Lesnar’s ass and starts to storm off. Wade Barrett then comes down the ramp for his match and tells Triple H to get a move on. Triple H responds by kicking Barrett in the nuts and leaving. Very short promo. Not complaining.
When Barrett finally gets to the ring he has a match against the Miz. Miz immediately tries for the figure four leglock but Wade escapes the ring. When he comes back in Miz takes over again and tries for the Skull Crushing Finale so Barrett exits again. Wade finally gets going when he hits Miz with a big boot trying to climb to the top rope. After controlling the middle of the match, Miz comes back by lifting Wade over the top rope and hitting him with a double axe handle off the ramp to the outside. Back in the ring, Barrett is in control again after throwing Miz in the barrier in the corner. Miz then ducks under a clothesline, toe dragging Barrett into the corner to get going. Miz hits the leaping clothesline and follows up with a double axe handle off the top rope for a two count. Barret escapes the SCF to hit a swinging side slam for a two count. Barrett then escapes the figure four a couple of times before delivering a side kick to the head for another two count. He sets up for the bull hammer elbow but Miz ducks under it and applies the figure four to get Barrett to tap out. It’s pretty amazing how often Miz is winning with that move. Solid match.
Backstage, Kane and Bryan are arguing about AJ’s impact on them in their match against Ziggler and Big E. Kaitlyn jumps in and tells them to forget about her as they all start bitching about her while AJ is listening in the background. AJ then goes off the deep end and attacks Kaitlyn when she calls her crazy (the secret word!) and Team Hell No has to pull them apart.
Khali, Zack Ryder Justin Gabriel and (aka team jobber) goes against the Shield next. Khali starts off strong against Seth Rollins, turning things around when Zack Ryder gets tagged in. The offense continues for the Shield as Ambrose and Reigns each get their shots in on Ryder. Zack eventually tags Gabriel in but he gets attacked from behind. Ambrose props Gabriel on his knees as Rollins hits him with a flying knee to end the match. Khali has enough and attacks the Shield, eventually getting hit with a triple power bomb. Sheamus, Orton and Big Show then come out to help the faces, surrounding and attacking the Shield in the ring. The Shield runs off licking their wounds as the three faces put their arms around each other and point at the WrestleMania sign.
Backstage Jericho says that Vickie Guerrero has granted him a match at WrestleMania against Fandango. Yup. It’s official. Blerg.
Team Rhodes Scholars out to the ring to back Philly Cheesesteaks and to introduce the Bella Twins. It’s pretty out of character for Sandow to be into the Bella’s isn’t it? Anyway they will be in the Rhodes Scholars’ corner as they take on Brodus Clay and Sweet-T with the Funkadactyles (that sentence made my head hurt). Brodus and Tensai start off strong against Tensai with Cody turning the tide on Tensai. Brodus comes back in to clean house and hit a splash on Rhodes, knocking him out of the ring. The Bellas go to help him when the Funkadactyles go to attack them (just because). Tensai goes to break things up as Cody runs back in to hit a disaster kick on Clay, winning the match for Team Rhodes Scholars. Very weird feud.
Since Mark Henry beat two men and Ryback doesn’t like being overshadowed, Ryback will now take on all of 3MB. Ryback plows through all three men until McIntyre knocks him down with a running boot to the face while Ryback is distracted. They keep Ryback down for about 30 seconds before Ryback powers his way back up and takes over again. He destroys everyone with spine busters and meat hook clotheslines, putting up Slater and Mahal at the same time for Shell Shocked to end the match. Vintage Ryback. After the match it was announced that Ryback and Mark Henry will compete in a weight lifting contest on Smackdown. Somebody is gonna get hit with a weight.
AJ now out for an actual match against Kaitlyn. I get the feeling this will turn into a slap fight quickly. Kaitlyn brings her down immediately, then throws her in the corner a few times before AJ slaps her. Kaitlyn responds with a big clotheslines and gut buster sending her out of the ring. Kaitlyn then goes for the spear outside the ring but AJ moves away and Kaitlyn goes right into the outside barrier. Kaitlyn can’t make it back into the ring in time and AJ wins via count out. That’s now two matches that ended by count out. Is AJ gonna get a title shot at WrestleMania? By the way, that would be the last match of the night. Some wrestling show.
So what do we get instead of a main event match? We get Jerry Lawler moderating a debate between John Cena and the Rock, featuring Booker T, Mick Foley, Dusty Rhodes and Brett Hart. I can see this segment bombing hard. I’d be pretty pissed if I paid to go to this show.
With all the Hall of Famers in suits, the Rock comes out in his track pants to a pretty mild ovation. The WWE Championship feels pretty meaningless right now, only appearing on TV once every few weeks. That can’t be good. Cena comes out to a much louder reaction, although most of it is boos. With all the furniture in the ring Cena can’t do his slide in, so instead he casually shakes some hands. I’m already done with this. Foley asks Cena if he can live with the regret if he lost to Rock again. Cena responds by saying WrestleMania will be a historic day for the WWE that will change the company forever. Why? This is the second time they are facing and Cena has won the title a million times. Ultimately Cena says if he lost he’d feel like Donavan McNabb losing the SuperBowl, getting immediate heat from the Philly fans. He remarks that he didn’t win the big one. Again, Cena has so many “big wins” that the fans boo him for it. He then says that the Rock doesn’t know what failure feels like “yet.” Rock responds by talking about how he slept in cars and got released 6 months into his WWE career after tearing up his knee, only to come back and become the Rock only to lose his title to Steve Austin. That’s all fine and good, but it all comes back to Rock saying he’s going to beat Cena, and Cena claiming the opposite. Even worse, they are both faces. All of the Hall of Famers start off by saying how much they like both of them. Where is the drama? They are facing each other just because.
Hart then asks what changed after last year’s WrestleMania, provoking them both to talk about how much they respect each other. WHO CARES!? Booker T asks Cena why he thinks he can beat the Rock, to which Cena replies, “because I have to.” That’s it. Rock takes issue with the answer, provoking Cena until he admits that the Rock didn’t beat him, Cena beat himself when he decided to go for the People’s Elbow. He says he had the Rock beat, but he decided to pander to the crowd by using the Rock’s own move in his home town and it cost him. Cena says it will never happen again. We’re finally getting somewhere. Cena says he thinks he can beat the Rock because he knows he is better than him, and that the Rock knows it. Rock says if Cena really had him beat he would have beaten him, and that Rock will always be the man. Dusty then asks them what they want out of this match. Cena says he wants to win the big one and dominate the Rock, handing him a devastating loss that will haunt him for the rest of his life. The Rock says he isn’t wired to be haunted by a loss, and that the match will end just like last year’s. The Rock then challenges Cena to prove him wrong right now and steps to the middle of the ring. Cena goes to him, waves his hand in his face and puts him up for an Attitude Adjustment. Rock gets out of it and delivers a Rock Bottom, ending the show with Cena on his back and the Rock walking out with the WWE Championship while Cena looks like a spoiled brat who didn’t get the present he wanted for his birthday. We finally got a physical confrontation between these two but damn it took forever to get there.
Aside from the last 30 minutes (the show ran 20 min long) of debate, Raw seemed to spend most of its time promoting Fandango versus Jericho and AJ versus Kaitlyn. Triple H was out for five minutes and Punk and Undertaker opened the show, never to be seen again. I’m all for not over exposing talent, but don’t underexpose either. A lot of what’s going on just feels so stale, and the interesting material gets pushed aside for what we’ve already seen. There is one more Raw before WrestleMania. Can we please get some surprises?